One happy grad

Shirley Peters always loved her son Nic, but now she actually likes him too.

Friends, family and drug counselors gathered at the Island County annex Thursday to celebrate the 17-year-old from Clinton’s graduation from Juvenile Drug Court, and wish him well in his new clean and sober life.

Peters and Nic’s stepfather Harry Uncapher marveled at the changes they have seen in Nic since he enrolled in the county program.

“There’s been a big difference in the last six months,” Uncapher, a sheriff’s deputy, said. “He’s a typical teen — he had to learn for himself to be accountable.”

Peters said they learned about the year-long program from Juvenile Court Services, which gives juvenile offenders the choice of participating in the program or going to court to face possible drug or alcohol-related charges.

“This year-long program is very rigorous and it’s no small feat to last for the entire program and abide by all the court’s orders,” Channing Gervig, drug court probation officer, said.

During his year of drug court Nic met with Judge Alan Hancock every other week, took regular urine analyses, worked on projects, did community service and went to anger management and drug and alcohol counseling. A Drug Court Team consisting of a treatment provider, prosecuting attorney, probation officer, public defense attorney and judge oversee the program.

Juveniles who successfully complete the program have the original charges dropped, but more importantly, they learn to kick the habits that landed them in trouble in the first place.

Since the program started in 2001 the number of participants has grown to 16, with about half that graduating each year. Gervig hopes to receive federal funding which would allow the program to take up to 30 youth.

Gervig said the success rate of the program was hard to quantify, but that the goal was to reduce crime and drug and alcohol use, and create “clean, sober, well-rounded people.”

Judge Alan Hancock was at Nic’s graduation ceremony, and he had high praise for both the young man and the program.

“This is one of the best things we do,” he said. “It’s a very rewarding experience.”

Nic, a junior at South Whidbey High School, was all smiles as he made a small speech which contained a message for his peers: “I learned that if you do what you’re supposed to do then you can achieve whatever you want.”

During the program Nic’s grades improved, he got a job, and now, the minor in possession charges against him have been dropped.

“He went from being a boy to a nice young man who makes the right decision,” Peters said. “I just love him to death.”

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